PORTLAND, Maine — Somewhere out there is a lucky bride-to-be who will win the right to have online voters pick out her wedding dress, ring, cake and honeymoon.
The perk? She and her groom — whose attire will also be chosen by popular vote — will get all of those things for free as part of a Maine wedding package worth as much as $100,000.
Real Maine Weddings magazine Friday launched its second annual Wedding of the Year Contest, in which couples are encouraged to submit videos explaining why they should be awarded the grand prize.
Those videos will be ranked by online voters and reviewed by a panel of judges, and three finalist couples will be invited to an April 1 Maine Wedding Association bridal show in Freeport, where the winner will be announced. That will launch seven months of organizing — led as part of the grand prize package by planners Amber Small and Kathryn Ravenscraft of Sweetest Thing Weddings — before already scheduled Nov. 1 nuptials at Grace restaurant in Portland.
“As soon as the winner is announced, planning begins,” Real Maine Weddings editor Melanie Brooks said at a Friday press conference at Holiday Inn By the Bay, where the victorious wedding reception will be held less than 10 months from now. “It’s kind of a whirlwind.”
Lightening the load a little, the winning couple won’t be burdened by final decisions on what to wear on the big day, or where they’ll be heading afterward. Those choices will be made for them by people who are, for the most part, complete strangers with Internet connections.
But for all those practical jokers out there planning on a ballot stuffing gag that might leave the winning groom in a fish costume, the couple will choose three options for each of the online voting contests. The only tuxedos voters will be picking from, for instance, will be styles pre-approved by the soon-to-be-married.
In addition to Grace, Sweetest Thing and Holiday Inn By the Bay, photographer Emilie Sommer and a host of other Maine companies are lending their products and services to the big event to help add up to that $100,000 figure.
Last year’s winners, Laura Plaisted and Nolan Hood, pulled the judges’ heart strings with a video in which Laura made the plea alone — Hood was deployed overseas with the U.S. Marine Corps.
Vanessa Pike, membership director of the Greater Portland Convention & Visitors Bureau, said 36 percent of wedding proposals are made during the holiday season, so the early January contest launch is perfect timing for a lot of couples. She said it’s also a good time for the Portland area to get some extra publicity as a potential romantic getaway.
“It’s the exposure and community involvement and the ‘cyber factor,’” Pike told the Bangor Daily News Friday. “People from all over the country can take part and look at these places in Portland.”
Brooks said she mails copies of Real Maine Weddings as far as Alaska, Florida and California, and said around 40 couples submitted videos for last year’s contest — with the furthest submission coming from Minnesota.
“People all over the country are interested in getting married in Maine,” she said.
Especially when it involves getting a $100,000 event for free.